Influence of inoculum and climatic factors on the severity of Fusarium head blight in German spring and winter barley

Fusarium head blight (FHB) of small cereals is a disease of global importance with regard to economic losses and mycotoxin contamination harmful to human and animal health. In Germany, FHB is predominantly associated with wheat and F. graminearum is recognised as the major causal agent of the disease, but little is known about FHB of barley. Monitoring of the natural occurrence of FHB on Bavarian barley revealed differences for individual Fusarium spp. in incidence and severity of grain infection between years and between spring and winter barley. Parallel measurement of fungal DNA content in grain and mycotoxin content suggested the importance of F. graminearum in winter barley and of F. langsethiae in spring barley for FHB. The infection success of these two species was associated with certain weather conditions and barley flowering time. Inoculation experiments in the field revealed different effects of five Fusarium spp. on symptom formation, grain yield and mycotoxin production. A significant association between fungal infection of grain and mycotoxin content was observed following natural or artificial infection with the type B trichothecene producer F. culmorum, but not with the type A trichothecene-producing species F. langsethiae and F. sporotrichioides. Trichothecene type A toxin contamination also occurred in the absence of significant damage to grain and did not necessarily promote fungal colonisation.